Photo | Chris Thomaidis
Dr. Sherry Farrell Racette joins the University of Toronto faculty as the Jackman Humanities Institute’s first “Distinguished Visiting Indigenous Faculty scholar” and embarks on a journey to “link past and present Indigenous culture through beading.”
Farrell Racette—an associate professor of Women & Gender Studies and Native Studies at the University of Manitoba—will be the first to take part in the department’s annual fellowship. At the fellowship, she will explore “several concepts related to the movement and transference of Métis women’s knowledge and artistic practice across time and place, emphasizing how women created and recreated communities, marked visual territory, and contributed to community economies through the commodification of their artwork.”
Through her writing, stitching, and beading, her work seeks to make that same connection with today’s communities—both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. She takes an interesting approach, laced with tradition, in the wake of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for post-secondary institutions to make efforts in the form of “aboriginal language programs… to help advance research in the area of reconciliation.” Universities and colleges represent a key part in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s attempt to help Canada remedy the long-lasting effects on the Indigenous community after almost two centuries worth of the residential school system.
After the announcement of the TRC’s 94 recommendations for Canadians in 2015, the University of Toronto has set plans in motion—in the form of a committee that recently released a report outlining suggested steps and changes for implementation to make the campus more inclusive and responsive to Indigenous history and culture in the area. UofT has addressed “looking into hiring more indigenous faculty and staff,” and is encouraging “the recruitment of indigenous students.”
Since the beginning of the 2017 winter semester, the University of Toronto has begun to make good on the suggestions outlined by “launching a field of study in the master of social work program devoted to Indigenous trauma and resiliency,” and hosting a string of free events across campus for “Indigenous Education Week,” which ran from January 22nd to 27th. Through these efforts, the University is finding ways to connect the past, the present, and the future of relations, to form a more inclusive academic community and to build a better legacy for all.